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Ben Affleck testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the evolving security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (Susan Walsh/AP)

An Open Letter to Ben Affleck

Dear Ben Affleck,

We don’t know each other, though we’re sort of neighbors. You live in Cambridge. I’m just down the road in Arlington.

I’m writing to ask that you run for the U.S. Senate seat just vacated by John Kerry. I know you’ve already sought to assure folks that you’re not running.

And I get where you’re coming from. You more than do your civic duty when it comes to advocating for issues ranging from your own East Congo Initiative to hunger in America and caring for our veterans. You’re what my grandmother Annie Rosenthal would have called “a real mensch.”

U.S. Sec. of State and then-Sen. John Kerry shakes hands with Affleck  in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

U.S. Sec. of State and then-Sen. John Kerry shakes hands with Affleck in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

I also understand that your film career is finally where you want it to be. After a few years of teetering on the edge of smug self-parody, you’ve emerged as a serious player, an actor and director who works on films that are commercially successful and socially relevant. With “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town,” and now the Oscar-nominated “Argo,” you’re riding an epic hot streak. Why quit now to pursue the uncertain dividends of national politics?

In other words, I get that this is a tough pitch, which is why I’m offering six reasons for you to reconsider.

1. You’re being offered a higher calling and deep down you know it, mister.

Back in 2001, you said this about your political ambitions: “My fantasy is that someday I’m independently wealthy enough that I’m not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people should be in government.”

You were right back then, Ben. The reason Washington has become so dysfunctional is because it’s filled with hacks and proto-lobbyists. In fact, the right wing’s basic agenda is to break government, then shout about how broken it is.

Think of the message you’d be sending about the importance of government if you chose to leave Hollywood at the top of your game, to work for the greater good of the country.

I laud all the efforts you’ve made as a private citizen. But think of the difference you could make in, for instance, East Congo, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

JFK said it best, Ben. Ask not what your country can do for you …

2. The timing is right—and timing is everything.

I get that you’d prefer not to spend six years out of the biz. But how about a year and a half to see if political life agrees with you? The special election presents a rare opportunity to test the waters without risk of drowning.

More fundamentally, you’d be entering the Senate in the midst of a progressive renaissance. Thanks to the paranoid rightward lurch of the corporate-sponsored GOP, many Americans are ready to embrace common-sense solutions on a host of issues from immigration to tax policy.

A guy with your eloquence, moral fiber and star-power — working with President Obama — could help lead the charge.

3. You would make a great candidate and politician.

This is no knock against your chosen profession, but face it: anyone who can thrive in an ecosystem as craven and narcissistically corrupt as Hollywood is ready for the campaign trail and the capital.

If you want to be a real hero, a guy who doesn’t just entertain us but changes hearts and minds and laws and maybe even our collective fate, your chance has arrived.

Politics in the modern age isn’t about the minutiae of drafting policy. It’s about the drama of public gestures, staging moments that can capture the public imagination and awaken the better angels of their nature.

It’s about stagecraft, in other words. You’d kill it.

4. You would have plenty of downtime.

The Senate is often called a deliberative body, which is something of a slander against the word “deliberation.” Thanks to the perpetual Republican abuse of the filibuster, very little gets done.

Senators spend much of their time fundraising and campaigning, onerous tasks you wouldn’t have to worry about.

The bottom line is that you’d be able to read plenty of scripts, do a few carefully selected cameos, keep yourself in the game.

5. If Arnold Schwarzenegger can do it, so can you.

Enough said.

6. Your children (and mine) are counting on you.

Look, Ben, you’re a smart guy. And your films shine a light on the crucial issues facing this country.

But we’re living in a precarious historical moment, one in which the fate of the species hangs in the balance. The threat to our planet isn’t some hokey asteroid fantasia cooked up by Michael Bay.

It’s global warming, dwindling energy, overpopulation, plague, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Unless America — the most powerful nation on earth — can start to lead on these issues, our kids (and a lot of other kids) are going to be in real trouble. They already are.

If you want to be a real hero, a guy who doesn’t just entertain us but changes hearts and minds and laws and maybe even our collective fate, your chance has arrived.

I hope you’ll think long and hard before dismissing this letter.

Sincerely,
Steve Almond

Related:

Tags: 2013 Ma Senate, Celebrity, Film/TV

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  • Jasoturner

    Actually, this is probably not the craziest idea I’ll hear today…

  • divinedancer

    He is already living his higher calling- he changes lives through art.

  • http://twitter.com/37ft2in Cat

    I thought this would sound crazy. It…doesn’t.

  • Van der Meer

    Love Affleck’s movies and he would be great in the Senate. But how would he ditch all the bad press from his Jennifer Lopez days?

    • sam

      I suspect this is the real reason Affleck won’t run. It’s a shame but there’s too much dirt to be dug up. When his opponent gets his hands on the infamous Vancouver strip club tape … Ben has three kids and a wife. He’s happy and his life is settled. He doesn’t need his sleazy bad boy days plastered all over the front page.

      • ThirdWayForward

        Agreed. The forces of evil will stop at nothing……

    • SBM

      Given the histories of the present company, I’m sure he’d do just fine. If we start eliminating people because of their past, mostly youthful, indiscretions, we’ll never be able to elect anyone to anything ever again, given the current moral avalanche most people are playing in. Sparing his family is noble of him, but I’m sure Mrs. Garner-Affleck is well aware of his history at this point in their life.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jenn.kanzeeaton Jenn Kanze-Eaton

        Especially since we all know it, that’s the thing about someone already under the microscope, not too many surprises.

  • Clint Cavanaugh

    Amen, Almond!

  • Nancy from Braintree

    Agree, agree, agree. Do it, Ben!

  • Lilee

    Why not tell Brady to run? Come on. Didn’t Arnold and Sunny show us that just ’cause you’re famous doesn’t mean you know squat about legislation? Life isn’t the movies. Let’s get back the old boring politicians who don’t mind reading legislation, sitting in on boring committee hearings and doing the dull work that it takes to pass good legislation. Great looks, powerful egos, even highly publicized charity work isn’t the same as making good laws. Bring in the pot bellies, the keen minds and hard working folks that by the very nature of their political interest–long hours sitting and reviewing–might not have the best looks but may be the best at working the halls. The GQ Scott Brown types just spend too much time looking in the mirror rather than looking at the hard issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    More fundamentally, you’d be entering the Senate in the midst of a progressive renaissance. Thanks to the paranoid rightward lurch of the corporate-sponsored GOP, many Americans are ready to embrace common-sense solutions on a host of issues from immigration to tax policy.
    so are the dems just getting by on their charm and good looks and no corporate donations?
    the partisan garbage on both sides is pretty unbelievable and neither party represents the majority of voters anymore

  • SBM

    I would have taken this seriously had you not placed all the blame for our current dysfunctional system on the right. The ENTIRE system is broken, on both sides and the left is not doing any better for us than anyone else, so please try to be fair. That said, I agree with the challenge to Mr. Affleck. Plus, he’s not bad to look at, so maybe people might listen to him.

    • the bandwagon

      But the right makes zero attempt to fix anything. They blame, blame, blame, meanwhile they allow themselves to be infiltrated by everybody: mega-corporations, the gun lobby, evangelicals, the tea party, etc.

    • i,robit

      By its own definition, people who lean politically to the right are conservative – meaning that they wish to preserve the status quo, thereby preserving the traditional institutions that are so broken…. So, yes, the entire system is broken. And no, leftists aren’t perfect, but they are far more progressive than the right and in favor of changing the system that engenders multitudes of inequities…. So, even though the blame game is a stupid game to play because we are all complicit in reinforcing the system, it is not entirely wrong to focus on conservatism….

  • Warren Taylor

    Speaking as a California, the Arnold Schwarzenegger rationale was really weak. He was one of the worst governors our State has ever had, IMHO.

  • marybeth

    Yea, we need Affleck about as much as Ashley Judd…lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.lauro2 Jennifer Lauro

    What a waste of an article. Seriously?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743610364 Sonya Lea

    Perhaps Mr. Affleck could be one of the first (after President Obama) whose past doesn’t have to crush their campaign, especially when politicians come clean first. I’m with you. Ben would be a fine choice for office.

  • bandwagonDan

    Not. Bad.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I was thinking about writing the same letter to Jill Stein.

  • mochaman69

    he is young yet. Give him 20 years
    . We’ll have bigger problems then.

  • Isobel Clinton

    I believe Mr. Almond is making what is called a joke. “My fantasy is that someday I’m independently wealthy enough that I’m not beholden to
    anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people
    should be in government.” Independently wealthy movie stars, see, are not “everyday people.” All I can hope, seeing that the comments here take it seriously and a campaign may emerge from this tiny seed, is that Mr. Affleck too was making a joke.

  • maraith

    All we need is a smart guy with charisma and name recognition? Like…oh….Romney? I’d rather have Mr. Affleck helping kick corporations out of politics. That would make a real difference.

  • Response Two

    “My fantasy is that someday I’m independently wealthy enough that I’m not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people should be in government.”

    This is the dream of so, so, many Americans.

  • Pointpanic

    I don’t think democracies need “heroes”. Hero myths concentrate too much power into one person. We need an active citiznery.

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